July 29, 2014: Cubs backup catcher John Baker records a win in Colorado

This article was written by Sean Kolodziej

BakerJohnJuly 29, 2014, began as a normal day for the rebuilding Chicago Cubs. With a 43-61 record, the North Siders were in fifth and last place in the National League Central Division, 14½ games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs were playing the Colorado Rockies, who with a 43-63 record were in last place in the NL West Division. This game was unlikely to have playoff implications. None of the 28,590 fans at Wrigley Field that night expected the game to be all that memorable. They definitely didn’t expect it to end up lasting 6 hours and 27 minutes, the Cubs’ longest game ever by time (through the 2021 season). They also didn’t expect to see a Cubs backup catcher be the winning pitcher.

Edwin Jackson took the mound for the Cubs that night. He was in year two of a four-year, $52 million contract that was quickly turning out to be a disaster for the Cubs and general manager Theo Epstein. Clearly not having his best stuff, Jackson gave up three runs in the first inning. Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau did the damage with RBI doubles, Arenado’s scoring one run and Morneau’s driving in two.

The Cubs bounced right back in the bottom of the first. Emilio Bonifácio led off with a double down the left-field line. Anthony Rizzo hit a single that allowed Bonifácio to score. The Cubs, however, managed to leave two men on base.

Even though Jackson did not give up any runs in the next three innings, he was struggling. The Rockies had runners in scoring position in each inning. After only four innings, he had thrown 105 pitches. When Jackson’s at-bat came up in the bottom of the fourth, it was an easy decision for Cubs manager Rick Renteria to pinch-hit for him. Renteria chose starting pitcher Travis Wood, a decent hitter, to pinch-hit. Significantly, after his at-bat, Wood would be unavailable to pitch.

In the bottom of that fourth inning, Junior Lake was hit by a pitch and then Bonifácio tied the game with a two-run homer. That was the only scoring for the next 11 full innings. Eighteen pitchers were used in the game; nine for each team. Fans had to watch as the two teams combined for 28 men left on base, while going a combined 5-for-23 with runners in scoring position.

Carlos Villanueva pitched the fifth and sixth innings for the Cubs and got the first two outs in the seventh. His replacement, Wesley Wright, did not fare so well. After giving up a single to Carlos González and walking Justin Morneau, he escaped the inning by getting Wilin Rosario to ground out to second base.

Renteria used two more relief pitchers in the next two innings. Justin Grimm was called upon to pitch the eighth inning, and Brian Schlitter pitched a scoreless ninth. Realizing that his available pitchers were quickly vanishing, Renteria had Blake Parker pitch two innings, the 10th and 11th.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde approached backup catcher John Baker about pitching as early as the 12th inning. “Are you serious? Absolutely I’m willing to pitch,” Baker recalled saying. “I’ll do whatever I have to do. As long as it means I get to get into the game and play baseball, man, throw me out there wherever. I’m in.”1

After James Russell pitched the 12th and 13th innings, and Pedro Strop pitched the 14th and 15th, the Cubs’ bullpen was used up. The usual closer, Héctor Rondón, was unavailable because he had pitched the previous two games. Someone had to pitch for the Cubs. Enter John Baker.

Historically, position players have been used to pitch late in games that have been blowouts. The manager of the losing team would bring in a position player to either rest his pitchers or to add a little fun to an otherwise dull end of a lopsided loss. It usually involves bad pitching in game that is no longer seen as competitive. To have Baker, the backup catcher, pitch in this tie ballgame was illogical. But Renteria apparently felt he did not have any other options.

Baker got his first hitter, Charlie Culberson, to foul out to first baseman Anthony Rizzo. He then walked Drew Stubbs, but Cristhian Adames, playing in his first major-league game, grounded to second for an inning-ending double play.

As fate would have it, John Baker was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the 16th. With the roughly 500 fans left screaming, “Baker! Baker! Baker!” the backup catcher drew a walk from Rockies pitcher Tyler Matzek. Matzek was normally a starting pitcher, but like the Cubs, the Rockies were also running out of pitchers. He had started a game just three days before and pitched five innings, but Rockies manager Walt Weiss didn’t want to use a position player to pitch quite yet.

Baker went to second on a sacrifice by Bonifácio. Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcántara was hit by a pitch, and Rizzo hit a bloop single to left-center, loading the bases.

Shortstop Starlin Castro then hit a line drive to medium-deep right field that was caught by Charlie Blackmon. The throw home was low, and bounced in as Baker slid into home for the game-winning run.

When all was said and done, Baker had thrown 11 pitches. “His repertoire included a knuckleball, a sinker—which he said bullpen coach Lester Strode taught him before going in—and a four-seamer that was so off-speed that it was officially recorded a changeup.”2 Baker joked, “People told me that I was tipping my slider, but I clearly wasn’t because I was throwing a split-finger.”3

“I think he was smart enough to know that if he stayed below the hitting speed, he was going to be effective,” said Rockies manager Weiss. “And that’s what he did. He threw strikes. If he threw like 85 or 86, he probably would’ve gotten lit up. Mid-to-upper 70s, you usually don’t see that in the scouting report.”4

Baker became the first true position player to earn a pitching win for the Cubs since Fred Pfeffer in 1885. The 2014 season was Baker’s last in the major leagues, and he left with a 1-0 pitching record and a 0.00 earned-run average.

Asked about the win the next day, Baker said, “It was awesome. I think that it’s one of those things, I mean when do you get a chance to do that ever?”5



This article was fact-checked by Bruce Slutsky and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted and for pertinent information, including the box score and play-by-play.

Video highlights of Baker’s win can be found at



1 Associated Press, “Cubs C Baker Enjoys Spotlight After First Win,” USA Today, July 30, 2014,

2 Daniel Kramer, “Baker Enjoying Position in Cubs’ History,”, July 30, 2014,

3 USA Today.

4 Kramer.

5 USA Today.

Additional Stats

Chicago Cubs 4
Colorado Rockies 3
16 innings

Wrigley Field
Chicago, IL


Box Score + PBP:

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